US trade commission sides with iRobot, bans SharkNinja robot vacuum imports

FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen outside of the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, D.C., U.S., August 31, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

(Reuters) -The U.S. International Trade Commission said on Tuesday it would ban imports of SharkNinja Operating LLC robot vacuums that infringe a patent owned by Roomba maker iRobot Corp.

The full commission upheld part of a trade judge's October decision that SharkNinja violated two of its rival's patents, affirming that SharkNinja's devices mimicked iRobot navigation technology.

President Joe Biden's administration has 60 days to review the import ban before it takes effect, though bans are rarely reversed. Parties can also appeal ITC decisions to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit after the review period ends.

SharkNinja attorney Brian Rosenthal said the remaining patent at issue only related to a feature of one device that the company had already removed, and that the order will have "zero impact" on SharkNinja’s ability to sell its products.

iRobot CEO Colin Angle said in a statement that the company was pleased with the decision and import ban.

Bedford, Massachusetts-based iRobot filed the ITC complaint in 2021 along with a lawsuit against SharkNinja in Boston federal court. It accused Needham, Massachusetts-based SharkNinja's ION, IQ and AI-series robotic floor cleaners of copying its technology for mapping rooms, targeting cleanings, automatically docking to charging stations and other features.

The court case was put on hold during the ITC proceedings. Another patent lawsuit iRobot brought against SharkNinja in 2019 has also been paused during related proceedings at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The ITC case is In the Matter of Certain Robotic Floor Cleaning Devices and Components Thereof, U.S. International Trade Commission, No. 337-TA-1252.

(Reporting by Blake Brittain in Washington; Editing by David Bario and Richard Chang; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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